Fallen Tarleton police officer honored with portrait presentation, scholarship

Officer W.A. Hail Unveiling

Officer W.A. Hail Unveiling

Thursday, December 13, 2018

STEPHENVILLE, Texas — The family of fallen Tarleton State University police officer W.A. Hail presented a painting of their patriarch in a 1 p.m. ceremony today — 40 years to the day of his death — at the Thompson Student Center in Stephenville and announced a scholarship in his name.

Representing Tarleton President F. Dominic Dottavio, Chief of Staff Kim McCuistion spoke of Hail’s ultimate sacrifice.

“At Tarleton we are guided by the core values of tradition, integrity, civility, leadership, service and excellence,” she said. “As we look back on Officer Hail’s life we see that he, too, was guided by these core values.”

Hail was 56 when he died. He suffered a fatal heart attack while pursuing several male students following a report they were congregating around a female residence hall.

A World War II veteran, he was on the Tarleton police force nine years. He also was a reserve officer for the Stephenville Police Department and the Erath County Sheriff’s Department.

In May, Hail’s name was added to the Texas Law Enforcement Monument located in Austin on the Capitol grounds. In addition, his name was placed on the National Law Enforcement Monument in Washington, D.C.

Kathy Ward-Wilson, Tarleton’s first female police officer, was Hail’s partner four decades ago.

“He was such a hard worker,” she said. “He was a gentleman and a great officer. I thank God I knew him.”

Hail’s granddaughter Rhonda Duckworth was emotional in her reminiscence of her grandfather.

“He was one of the most genuine people you could ever meet. He always had a way of making us feel special and important. This painting will hang in the Tarleton Police Department lobby and will help make sure that his sacrifice will never be forgotten.”

The painting, depicting Hail in his Tarleton police uniform, was the work of Sheryl Cozad.

“As I painted this portrait, I had such a feeling for the kind presence of this policeman,” the artist said. “It is as if he was patiently urging me to finish. I could almost hear him saying, ‘I’ve waited such a long time to be remembered.’ ”

The scholarship, announced by Hail’s son, Rick, will aid junior- and senior-level students pursuing a degree in criminal justice or a related field for a career in law enforcement.

“The nice thing about this scholarship is that it will be here forever,” noted Tarleton Development Director Jennifer Hawthorne. “It will memorialize Officer Hail in perpetuity, helping future students achieve their dreams of becoming law enforcement personnel.”

A tribute from the Rev. Kenneth Hall, who officiated Hail’s funeral in 1978, read by the Rev. Kenneth Reiter of First Baptist Church of Cross Plains recalled Hail’s sense of responsibility.

“W.A. was never one to step back and let someone else do the job,” Reiter read. “If he saw a need he stepped forward with all his wisdom, action and availability.”

Tarleton Police Chief Matt Welch presented a folded American flag to the family as a symbol of Hail’s death in the line of duty.

“Officer Hail died exemplifying Tarleton’s core value of service,” Welch said. “The officers of Tarleton are honored with the presentation of the painting to display in our lobby as a reminder of his service.”

To contribute to the W.A. Hail Memorial Scholarship, call Hawthorne at 254-968-1756.

Tarleton, founding member of The Texas A&M University System, provides a student-focused, value-driven education marked by academic innovation and a dedication to transform today’s scholars into tomorrow’s leaders. It offers degree programs to more than 13,000 students at Stephenville, Fort Worth, Waco, Midlothian, RELLIS Academic Alliance in Bryan, and online, emphasizing real-world learning experiences that address societal needs while maintaining its core values of tradition, integrity, civility, excellence, leadership and service.

A founding member of The Texas A&M University System, Tarleton is breaking records — in enrollment, research, scholarship, athletics, philanthropy and engagement — while transforming the lives of more than 16,000 students in Stephenville, Fort Worth, Waco, Midlothian, A&M RELLIS at Bryan and online. True to Tarleton’s values of excellence, integrity, and respect, academic programs emphasize real world learning and address regional, state and national needs.